Thu 22 Feb 2024 9:14 am - Jerusalem Time

Burns returns to Paris, and Israel indicates possible progress in prisoner negotiations

Axios reported - from an informed source and an Israeli official - that CIA Director William Burns is expected to arrive in Paris tomorrow, Friday, to hold talks with Qatari, Egyptian and Israeli officials, while an Israeli minister spoke about the possibility of progress regarding exchanging prisoners with the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).

The American news site said that the new talks in which Burns will participate will revolve around efforts to reach an agreement to ensure the release of prisoners.

The CIA director participated late last month - alongside the head of the Mossad (Israeli foreign intelligence), David Barnea - in talks that took place in Paris, followed earlier this month by meetings in Cairo regarding a possible agreement leading to a ceasefire and the exchange of prisoners.

The Paris talks resulted in a framework for a possible agreement, but the discussions that took place afterwards did not lead to progress.

While Israel and the United States want an interim agreement that includes a temporary truce during which the Israeli prisoners will be released, Hamas stresses that any agreement must lead to a final ceasefire, the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the Gaza Strip, and the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners.

Attack on Rafah

Meanwhile, the American CNN network quoted an informed diplomat as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not seem ready to reach any agreement at the present time.

The source said that if Israel launched an attack on Rafah, which is crowded with displaced persons (south of the Gaza Strip), then the possibility of concluding a deal regarding the detainees could be forgotten.

CNN quoted informed sources as saying that senior American officials believe that there is no chance for Israel to agree to a permanent ceasefire without releasing the detained Israelis in Gaza, and that through a pause, even if it is temporary, discussions can continue that would end the conflict. 

Yesterday evening, Israeli War Council member Benny Gantz said that there are preliminary indicators that enhance the possibility of progress in the negotiations towards a new exchange deal.

Gantz added that Israel will not hesitate to give up any opportunity to return its prisoners detained in Gaza.

For his part, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said that he met with the families of the prisoners and discussed with them the difficulties facing the army and the practical and political efforts to return them.

The meeting was held amid criticism and protests over statements by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in which he said that the recovery of prisoners from Gaza is not the most important thing, but rather the victory over Hamas.

Last night, hundreds of Israeli demonstrators marched in Tel Aviv to demand that the government expedite the return of prisoners from the Gaza Strip.

Medicines for prisoners

On the other hand, Israeli Channel 12 quoted a senior French Foreign Ministry official as saying that Paris had obtained sufficient evidence proving the arrival of medicines to Israeli prisoners in the Gaza Strip.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid Al-Ansari said on Tuesday that Doha had received assurances from Hamas regarding the receipt of a shipment of medicines based on a Qatari-brokered agreement, and that the movement had begun delivering them to detainees in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Ansari added that Qatar received these assurances as a mediator in the agreement, which includes the introduction of medicines and a shipment of humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip, especially the most affected and damaged areas, in exchange for delivering the medicines needed by detainees in the Strip.

A few days ago, Hamas warned that the continued Israeli aggression and the prevention of the entry of aid threaten the lives of many sick or injured Israeli prisoners, stressing that it is doing everything in its power to preserve their lives.

Israel estimates the number of its remaining prisoners in the Gaza Strip at about 130, but it is likely that a number of them were killed.


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Burns returns to Paris, and Israel indicates possible progress in prisoner negotiations